Tech Tour Day Five: CMU Has Top Biz Incubator -- And More

Tech Tour Day Five: CMU Has Top Biz Incubator -- And More
September 28, 2009/The Great Lakes IT Report

Like the rest of Michigan's so-called directional schools, Central Michigan University started out as a teacher college.

Now the Chippewas are teaching everybody else in the state how to run a business incubator.

The CMU Research Corp. incuabtor on the southern edge of the Mt. Pleasant campus is now home to no less than 40 businesses, which they say is tops in the state. I got presentations from six of them Monday, the fifth day of the Great Lakes IT Report's 2009 Fall Tech Tour.

You want groundbraking? Try Bio-Nano Power LLC. President and CEO Nathan Long has developed means to convert the sugar in your body to electricity to run medical devices in your body.

The technology also scales up, producing home fuel cells that power appliances, home generators and automobiles. The company's also working on novel coatings for tiny electrodes used in the body for a variety of medical treatments and measurements.


The company filed a 150-page patent application earlier this month. More by e-mailing

I also heard from Steve Cullen, CMURC project director for HydrAid, a water filtration sytem tha kills more than 95 percent of bacteria present in water without using electricity. Instead, the system uses several types of sand, including 'biosand' infused with microogranisms.

The device, about three feet tall and a foot around and encased in what looks like a small trash can, is intended to combat the developing world's grim statistics: more than 5,000 children dying every day of water-borne illnesses.

"We can take these anywhere in the world," Cullen said, estimating the units' production costs at $40 to $50.

More by e-mailing or call (586) 770-8683.


Erin Strang, grant development director at CMURC, presented on Kinetic Wave Power LLC's PowerGin power generators. The technology uses long tubes covered with small energy capture units called "buckets." They're laid at an angle spinning around the tube, so waves make them spin, producing power. The company says PowerGin produces power at 6 to 10 cents a kilowatt.

More at


I also heard more about a company I wrote about last week, CMURC's in-house research group, called Business Insight. They're working with Dataspace of Ann Arbor to create a new service that helps hospitals forecast patient volume. The service integrates data available from external sources, includes a planning tool to evaluate opportunities to influence patient volume, and uses a proprietary algorithm to translate the data into information for practical use.

Said Tim Pletcher, director of applied research: "This is the first time we've taken out of our business intelligence advanced analytics, a trade secret, a really interesting set of complex models, and tried to commercialize it."

Business Insight isalso working with a group of Michigan community colleges to address the shortage of health care workers in rural areas by attempting to recruit more local workers and get them trained in various health care occupation.

CMURC is also the incubator for the Michiagn Health Information Alliance, a health care information group covering an 11-county area of mid-Michigan and the Thumb, and is looking to create a regional dashboard for the quality of the health care industry regionally.


Then there was James Pieron of IB Technologies, a CMU grad who has developed a fascinating mathematical system for investment brokerage risk management.

The system provides one consolidated view of broker risk on all platforms. Previously, brokers had clients communicating to them with various inputs that couldn't be consolidated.

Pierson showed me the 10 computer screens representing an investor's view, a broker's view and an investment bank's view, and explained how the system controlled risk for the broker. Very cool stuff.


And just to emphasize that everybody's human, Cam Thorsby, a business devleopment manager at CMURC, presented on a food line the center is pushing -- Dixie Dave's Wild Game Soup Co.

The company has created pheasant wild rice, gator gumbo, elk and wild mushroom and buffalo barley soups, all gluten free and dairy free, which will be sold in unique paper-and-plastic boxes rather than cans.


For more information on this or any other CMURC incubator business, contact Ken Van Der Wende, CMURC president and CEO, at (989) 774-1574 or (989) 859-3190, or e-mail  All these companies are looking for investors, partners, customers or some combination of the three, and all looked ready to take on the world.


All that actually ENDED my day in Mt. Pleasant. I spent several hours before that touring Central Michigan University and its latest high-tech education spaces.

My day started with Jim Therrell and Brian Roberts of CMU's Faculty Center for Innovative Teaching, part of CMU's brand-new, high-tech $50 million Education And Human Services building.

The mission is to help faculty with teaching and learning, Terrell said. "We advocate for appropriate use of technology on campus, where it is value added, where it is research based," Terrell said. "Otherwise you get into fads, and you don't know if it's adding to the educational enterprise."

Terrell is director of the center, while Roberts is an imaging and Web developer for it.

One current example of the center's current research is CMU's Education 107 class, a freshman introduction to teaching. The class has long used simple clickers for students to respond to questions. Now, two sections of the class are using the clickers, while two others are using much more sophisticated and flexible iPod Touch units.

"The main difference is that the iTouch can connect to the Internet, give you 24 hour mobile learning," Roberts said. "We think it has a lot of potential to connect students to podcast lectures, for example."

Both men said there have been massive changes in educational technology in just the past three years, and CMU research is staying abreast.


I also checked out the first few minutes of the 9 a.m. section of Education 107, taught by the husband and wife team of Ruth and Dan Volz. Both say they love the new building and its high-tech educational touches. And I got a complete tour of the building from Grg S. Henley, assistant manager of technical services and IT at CMU, and Rob Alford, application coordinator for the College of Education and Human Services.

From the 'Room Wizards' outside meeting rooms that let faculty reserve rooms, automatically sending out e-mails to those invited, to the CopoyCams that capture professors' notes from whiteboards and upload them online, to the slate floors and bamboo walls and green roof that led the building to a LEED certification, this is one gorgeous high-tech hall.


Next I visited CMU's famous Body Scanner, the only one of its kind in the Midwest. Newly expanded, the scanner uses lasers to scan the human body in great detail. The new unit produces 140 different body measurements vs. 80 in the old machine.

Terence Lerch, associate professor in the department of engineering and technology, says the scanner is used for custom clothing design, and may be used in the future to determine whether certain body measurements predict future health risk.

It's also a good way to motivate fat reporters to get back on Weight Watchers when the Tech Tour's over.


I also met with Cam Enarson, interim dean of Central Michigan University's fledgling medical school.

The school is scheduled to be open in the fall of 2012, but is still in the first and lowest of five stages of medical school accreditation -- applicant school. As such, the school is prohibited from taking steps to recruit students, Enarson emphasixzed.

The next stage for the school is candidate school status, where the school submits a database of information and is approved for a site visit by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for medical schools in the United States and Canada. Once a favorable site visit takes place, Enarson said, the school moves to the next stage, preliminary accreditation, where the school can start recruiting and sign up its first clss. The second year of the program, there's another site visit, where the school is judged for its readiness to take students through the second two years of medical school. If it passes, it's granted provisioinal accreditation status. After yet another site visit as the first class is in its fourth year of med school, the school can receive full accreditation.

CMU's board has approved a total of $24 million for a 64,000-square-foot addition southeast of the current Dow Health Professions Building to house the new medical school. Groundbreaking is planned for early next spring with completion in January 2012.

Enarson said the medical school plans to concentrate on providing doctors to the central and northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, where there's a shortage of doctors. It plans 100 students per year.

Enarson, an anesthesiologist by training, was dean of the medical school at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. when he was recruited for the CMU job.

And Enarson said CMU doesn't "think health care reform will have any significant effects on our planning. It actually may be beneficial if it provides access to care for all Americans."


So that wraps up my visit to Mt. Pleasant and Central Michigan University, where a former teacher's college now is an integral part of high-tech economic development in mid-Michigan. I love telling stories like this, and can't wait to see how many of those 30 incubator companies hit it big.

Posted on Monday, September 28, 2009 (Archive on Saturday, October 31, 2009)
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